Apply skills in practice with further education

Hands-on learning: How professional development works in tandem with practical experience

As the veterinary science sector continues to evolve with new treatments and technological breakthroughs, staying ahead of the curve is essential. Postgraduate study can equip you with the latest knowledge and skills to apply medical, analytical and therapeutic principles as a veterinary practitioner - all without putting a pause on your career.

Why pursue further study?

For one, further education is not just advised, it’s essential. “For a vet to stay registered, they must complete continuing education,” Mark Davis, a Veterinary Clinical Sciences academic at the University of Melbourne. “You have to keep up to date in your field, so most people will do some sort of course to stay up to date with the latest trends and treatments.”

But it's not just a professional obligation. Further education is an opportunity specialise, sharpen your skills and develop your career in any direction you choose.

Davis says postgraduate courses allow students to focus on a particular area of interest, which can help broaden their knowledge of clinical disciplines.

“The courses are designed to increase the general veterinarian practice’s level of skills," says Davis. "They tend to have a key focus, which can help students develop greater abilities in these areas.”

Flexibility and support

Online, self-paced learning offers veterinary professionals the flexibility needed to properly balance work and studies, with tutors available to guide and help them through every step along the way. “When we were writing the courses, we broke it down into 20 to 30-minute chunks,” says Davis. “They’re designed to be learned in small pieces, so you can choose how fast or how slow you go, as well as how much you do at a time. If you want to spend half of your lunchbreak reading, you can.”

Similarly, online options allow vets to study without being required to attend a campus-based institute. “We have people doing the course in rural areas, so they don’t have to travel to do a face-to-face course,” says Davis. “There are also people from overseas doing these courses – it’s recognised that we are providing something that’s transportable and easy to access from anywhere.”

The University of Melbourne’s postgraduate courses also give practicing veterinarians access to up-to-date information even after the course has been completed. “Once a student is signed up to the course, they’ll always have access to it – even if we update the content,” Davis says.

A helping hand

As a veterinary professional, hands-on learning is the most effective way to develop your current skills. Online learning doesn't have to hinder that practical aspect to your studies - in fact, it gives you the opportunity to put your learning straight into practice.

The University of Melbourne's entirely-online Graduate Certificate in Small Animal Ultrasound Abdominal utilises impressive technology to help students investigate, describe and interpret abdominal ultrasound findings in the general practice setting.

The course can be delivered on any mobile device, allowing students to directly put new knowledge and skills into their practice.

“Students can sit the device next to them while they’re doing their own study and learn about where they have to go, or if they should be looking for certain things in the animal when performing an ultrasound,” Davis says. “It’s very useful, especially since hands-on practical courses are very expensive. It’s something students have access to all the time rather than just getting shown or demonstrated once.”

Future-proofing your career

While postgraduate study is ideal for those seeking continuing professional development, it can also help veterinarians prepare for future industry requirements and qualifications.

“There is a recognised middle step in practice,” Davis says. “Once a student has been graduated for three of four years, they can become a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS), which is only possible by passing the exams.”

Davis says that the regular exams, throughout each course gives students a chance to practice for sitting the ANZCVS memberships exams. "We have a feeling that most people who complete our courses pass the memberships without too many issues," he says. "It is a way of emphasising that you’re able to learn, translate and retain the information.”

The Graduate Certificate in Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care course also involves writing practice protocols; writing, consuming and interpreting these principles provides students with comprehensive knowledge of the treatments in emergency medicine.

“We’ve had comments from past students who studied the course explain that they redid their protocols and learned how to treat their patients more thoroughly,” he says.

Pursuing post-graduate study allows you to integrate new techniques in practice and advance your career - but more importantly, it fine-tunes your skills so you can continue providing the best possible care for your patients.

“If a student is able to understand their cases and treat them more thoroughly, it brings them a lot more professional satisfaction,” says Davis.

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